The 2010 Tour of Babies

Leaving or entering Walla Walla from anywhere more than 350 miles away entails, as previously documented on this blog, a minimum of 14 hours and multiple modes/legs of transportation. Our longest trip was our original relocation, which took seven days, and our shortest one occurred a few days ago, when we left for the airport at 9:15AM Eastern Standard Time and rolled into our garage at 8PM Pacific. Most of our commutes have run somewhere around 17 hours, which I suppose was mind-alteringly fast at some point in history. Lewis and Clark, for example, took 3+ years to reach the West Coast after leaving Philadelphia. And they didn’t even have Delta’s complimentary biscotti cookies, noted by me as the only high point of traveling on their airline.

Taking our three flights to Michigan, then spending 10 days at the inlaws, during which it snowed 7 times, and then gritting our teeth for what we hoped wouldn’t be an awful Detroit airport experience—seeing as the “underwear bomber” had been Motor City-bound—we made it to BWI Airport, found our luggage, took the shuttle to the car rental building, drove to have lunch with some friends, drove for an hour to our first host family’s house, and walked in the door. We were met, three inches past the threshold, by our 3-year-old friend.

“Would you like to play Candy Land with me? Would you like to play Candy Land with me? Would you like to play Candy Land with me,” she asked, sounding like Cameron Diaz after sucking down a couple of helium balloons.

I presumed she really wanted to get her inquiry across to us.

Her mother attempted to wave her away, saying that good hosts don’t accost their guests the nanosecond they arrive, but she would not be daunted.

“Come play Candy Land with me,” she said, switching to the declarative. I sensed we weren’t getting out of a game, and I grinned. One had to admire her panache.

We sat on the floor and played, and luckily, I remembered the rules from when last I played, in 1974. There seem to be some additional characters on the board, mostly in the form of princesses, that I don’t specifically recall, but I stumbled through with the whole card picking thing. If our friend selected any of the “princess cards,” the ones that send players to the gingerbread man, candy cane, ice cream cone, and so forth, she would begin a dance, which I quickly learned must be part of the new 21st Century version of Candy Land. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to recreate the exact dance moves, so I crossed my fingers that I’d only get the one or two gumdrop cards, slowly creeping forward through the Land that Candy Made.

And then we were done.

“Let’s play Candy Land,” she chirped, as if this were a new idea.

Occasionally she would start telling a story about people whom nobody in the room knew, including her parents. Were these people real or imagined? It didn’t help that in every retelling names and details would change, like watching Fox News discuss numbers of people attending a DC rally. She literally was a whirlwind of energy, doing impromptu impressions of the Tazmanian devil. We adored it.

A few nights later we visited some other friends who had a baby in September. This baby was cute and mellow, looking around the room, slowly twiddling his fingers and feet, enjoying his bouncy chair with a love he won’t see ever again, not that he’s focused on any element of nihilism at the moment. But he of course didn’t talk, was just past figuring out how to hold his head up. And it was in the showing off all the things he can’t do yet that we had our first taste on this trip of the plethora of baby-related products that one could buy if one was:

1. besmitten with copious amounts of spare time

2. an impulse buyer

3. a hoarder

4. disturbed enough to think that they needed even a quarter of these things

For they plopped the little guy into this irregularly shaped piece of plastic called a Bumbo, and there he was, sitting up. Their baby looked much like the one in the link—totally uninterested in this angle. But he really had no say in the matter.

The parents, for their part, wouldn’t put him in anything that he wasn’t enjoying, and he did seem pleased to be in the molded chair. Of course, he was so laid back he also enjoyed his bouncy seat, his parents’ arms, heck, it’s only a matter of time before he starts riding the German shepherd like a horse. I just couldn’t help wondering if I’m going to plunk down $40 for a Bumbo when I have a 3-month-old. Will I give my baby head hold up lessons so we can advance to the Bumbo faster? Will it be seen someday as an indicator for which day care kids can attend?

The next day we moved our temporary housing location to a new set of friends and their 21-month-old son. He is in the midst of his language explosion, so he has a lot more room to grow to get to our Candy Land aficionado’s vocabulary level, but these things come in time, or so I’m told. I arrived to his home and he was quiet, trying to remember me from somewhere, not sure if speaking would give anything away to me. Give this kid a job with the NSA.

Or maybe not. After only about 15 minutes, he was interacting with me. I won him over with blocks, apparently, in that I would make towers and he would knock them down, a blue-eyed version of Godzilla, and their IKEA table downtown Tokyo. Boom, went the blocks. Giggling, went the baby. At one point he picked up a bright red shovel and used that as an extension of his terrible power.

“Shuffle,” he squealed. “Fun!”

His words, more limited, sometimes bordered on incoherent, and we would all do our best to interpret them. This then made me understand that parents everywhere sometimes don’t have a clue what their kids are saying.

“Me go MILK fishy chol-nuff,” he said at one point.

“Ohhhh,” I said, not comprehending. Perhaps context would help me out, like when I was a high school sophomore in French 2. “And then what happened,” I asked.

“Fishy chol-NUFF!”

Clearly I wasn’t getting any closer. Although “nuff” was obviously important to the concept.

On Saturday we met up with yet another couple who have two children, a 4-year-old (well, really 4 and a half, she tells me) and a 6-month-old, who is a spitting image of the fat Buddha, with some wispy curly hair on top. If this child doesn’t grow up to be a Sumo wrestler, we will all be a little worse off. His father, it should be noted, is something like a 6-foot-5 rugby player. That he told me to come practice sometime with his team, when I still lived in DC, I can see in retrospect is truly laughable. By “come to practice,” he must have meant, “I’d like to bench press you.” And somehow I suppose I would be honored, though I bet I’m lighter than what what he can press, even with my 32 BMI.

Rugby player, 4 and a half year old and I wandered through Eastern Market, one of my favorite places on the entire East Coast, if I were asked to hierarchize it. The little girl is stunning to look at, clever, and is more than a little bit aware of both. One older woman recognized the two of them, and told him to watch out for her as she gets older, because she is going to bring the boys home. He declared that he wasn’t in the slightest bit concerned. And he shouldn’t be, for this kid has a wicked smart brain in her head, already.

We stopped in a children’s clothing and goods store, which he told me he calls “Bougie Baby.” The name is appropriate. They sell personalized crib covers for $90 and pacifier holders for $10. They had stocked strollers that had more options than my Honda CR-V. That the DC sidewalks are often made of very uneven bricks, well, that’s why they make strollers with shocks and struts. And in a full line of earth-friendly colors.

All week everyone wanted to know how our own baby making plans were coming along. I wondered idly if it wasn’t because they are more than ready to hand off all of the crap they’ve picked up since bringing their children into the world. Hopefully the shipping rates to Walla Walla will be cost-prohibitive, though secretly, I wonder if I can’t find a use for a dozen Boppies, or at least use one as a pillow on my next 15-hour journey out of town.

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2 Comments on “The 2010 Tour of Babies”

  1. Alexis
    January 16, 2010 at 6:41 am #

    Some days I wonder how people even had babies without 7 tons of molded plastic crap. Not that I am any less guilty than most…

  2. evmaroon
    January 16, 2010 at 8:52 am #

    Oh, and all of this is to say, I’m sure we’ll everything I mentioned in this post, and more. Partly because I can see how one would need 12,386 burp rags and 2,497 onesies. But I like that many of our friends have found creative ways around paying top dollar for all of these things because honestly, how do the manufacturers of baby-care products think people can afford all of this?

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